Thursday, May 24, 2012

“Food Finder”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Those with gourmet appetites have lots of alternatives along the northcoast. There are restaurants and culinary shops of all kinds to please every taste. But for people on a budget, the search for alternative foods can be more challenging.

Here in the Icehouse, a quest for off-the-wall eats typically means going to stores that specialize in discount merchandise. There, among sets of lawn furniture, cheap tools and assorted glassware, items not typically seen in our supermarkets can be found.

Truck stops can also provide an otherworldly culinary experience. They frequently offer products rarely seen on regular store shelves.

While not the sort of activity one could expect to boost social standing, the result can often be full cupboards, at a reasonable price.

What follows is a random list of purchases from a recent food-finding adventure:

Rudolph’s – OnYums Onion Flavored Rings (Rudolph Foods Co., Inc., Lima, OH) A full-bodied treat, nearly bursting out of the bag with originality. Not just another potato or corn chip.

Rosarita Whole Pinto Beans – Premium Seasoned (ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE) A staple item of southwestern cuisine, presented in vinegar, onion and garlic. Perfect as a side dish with tacos or enchiladas.

PASCO Curry Express – Makhani Sauce; Rogan Josh (Pasco Spices & Herbs, United Kingdom) Two Indian delights loaded with lots of flavor. I combined these concoctions with Vidalia onion, water chestnuts, and slices of chicken breast. The result was very delicious.

Totino’s Pizza Chips – Pepperoni Flavor (General Mills Sales Inc., Minneapolis, MN) A multigrain snack inspired by their famous Pizza Rolls. An attempt to expand market share with a bit of cross-brand, food engineering. They were interesting, but not quite what one would expect. A culinary creation that missed the bullseye, while still providing a diversion from typical grocery fare.

Gebhardt – Menudo Spice Mix (ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE) A perfect addition for Tex-Mex dishes of any kind. Made with chili peppers, onion, and garlic.

GOYA – Hot Vienna Sausages (Goya Foods Inc., Secaucus, NJ) A spicy twist on the well-worn recipe. These canned snack bites include a dash of red pepper and garlic. Great when pan-fried with eggs.

Wolf Brand Chili – With Beans (ConAgra Foods, Dallas, TX) A premiere prepared version of this spicy, southwestern dish. Guarded by Kaiser Bill since 1895. Destined to end up over a plate of thin spaghetti, topped with sharp cheddar cheese.

Zapp’s – Mesquite Bar-b-que Chips (Zapp’s Potato Chips, Gramercy, LA) Prepared in peanut oil like Dayton’s delectable ‘Mike-sell’s’ chips. A kettle-cooked snack, guaranteed to compliment any adult beverage.

La Buena Cocina – Medium Salsa (Desert Rose Foods, Phoenix, AZ) A Mexican-style concoction that includes diced carrot, green chili and garlic in a tomato base. Thinner in consistency than Pace or Chi Chi’s. Almost like a picante sauce.

Spice Islands – Chinese Five Spice (Spice Islands Trading Co., San Francisco, CA) Great for preparing many popular Oriental dishes, like stir-fried rice and vegetables. An expensive brand when found in regular stores.

Ranch Style Beans (ConAgra Foods, Dallas, TX) Made with a delicious blend of spices “that create our unique, bold flavor synonymous with authentic southwestern cookin’… since 1935.” The sort of side dish I like with grilled meats.

Fresh Foods – Wasabi Peas (Big Lots, Columbus, OH) Crunchy and spicy. Full of the potent taste-rush that this kind of snack is known to provide. And at a price that is insanely low.

GOYA – Sweet Potato Chips (Goya Foods Inc., Secaucus, NJ) A detour from the typical sliced spud. Satisfyingly mellow and full-bodied.

Marie Callender’s – Southwestern Cornbread Mix (Marie Callender’s Gourmet Products Division, San Jose, CA) A zesty interpretation of Pan de Maiz, with malted barley flour, peppers, onion, garlic, rosemary and parsley.

Stuckey’s – Maple Pecan Syrup (Vita Specialty Foods, Inwood, WV) A thick, sugary creation recommended for everything from waffles to cornbread, including oatmeal and popcorn balls. Inspired by W. S. Stuckey and his pecan treats.

Old Wisconsin – Hardwood-Smoked Snack Sticks (Old Wisconsin Food Products Co., Inc., Sheboygan, WI) A trucker favorite in the large, 24 ounce, display-size canister. Made from beef, spices, and a hint of turkey. Perfect for curing hunger while going over-the-road.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

“The Royal KMM, Remembered”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Growing up in a family of writers meant that I viewed this craft differently from others. It was something that nearly everyone did in the Ice continuum. So as I decided to set up a home office at the age of ten, my decision came without much forethought.

It was simply the sort of thing one was expected to do in our family.

Years later, after a television apprenticeship through Cornell University, I began to ponder the craft more seriously. A friend who was the editor of a local newspaper became my mentor. She helped focus this desire for wordsmithing accomplishment into a real plan of action.

Most important in those yonder days was the choice of a reliable writing machine. But I had little money to invest. A friend at church provided the solution – from his stash of discarded college equipment. The unit he offered was a Royal KMM typewriter from the 1940’s.

I bought it for ten dollars.

“The (1939) KMM introduced Royal's famous and patented Magic Margin system, whereby holding down the right or left margin lever and sliding the carriage to the desired location ‘magically’ set the margin.” –

The Royal was a behemoth. It seemed to have been constructed for wartime office duty. Though fully manual (non-electric) in design, it worked so efficiently that I soon forgot about its age. Friends and cohorts liked to poke fun at the thought of using such a paper-shredding relic. But I ignored their comments.

“By the late 1930s, Royal had overtaken the Underwood to become the world's No. 1 Typewriter manufacturer… (The KMM) offers many sophisticated features that are unavailable to portable machines, such as automatic tab setting and clear as well as keyboard tension adjustment. Because of its heavy duty construction, Royal desk models were preferred by business professionals, journalists and schools at the time.” -

Typing on the unit was a deliberate and noisy affair, not dissimilar to riding a Harley-Davidson. Because it needed no electricity to function, I could take it anywhere. Though admittedly, the device was not ‘portable’ by any stretch of the imagination.

After moving to Chardon, I bought new ink ribbons at Conley’s and re-wound them onto the old Royal spools. Poems, motorcycle stories and newsletters flowed freely as I developed more wordsmithing courage. The antique typewriter was my creative springboard.

“The basic typing mechanisms are the same as with the earlier Royal Model 10… but you can see the trend to fully enclose the working mechanisms… The KMM gets high marks from typewriter aficionados. Machines of Loving Grace states: ‘These are great machines. Get one if you find one.’ Mr. states it is ‘sturdy and built to last.’ Will Davis states: ‘These are rugged and reliable machines which are so common today because they sold so well at the time. They are truly first-class typewriters in every sense of the word.’ The poet John Ashbery used a Royal KMM… as does the author Joan Didion.” -

Eventually, my wife purchased a modern typewriter at Fisher’s Big Wheel. It had a built-in correction ribbon, and lots of modern amenities. The Royal went into a cardboard box under our basement steps.

My ten-dollar adventure had come to an end.

The new typewriter was not so ageless or enduring. Though much more sophisticated than the Royal, it soon surrendered to a Brother word processor. And that unit gave way to an actual computer, with Microsoft Word 97.

Eventually, the passage of time had me looking backward. Thoughts of the packed-away KMM resurfaced during research about notable writers and their own machines.

“Among other things, the L.A. civic leader Steve Soboroff is a noted collector of typewriters. He has the writing machines used by Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, George Bernard Shaw, Jim Murray, John Lennon and others. After… news about ‘Fahrenheit 451’ becoming an e-book despite the earlier anti-technology rants of author Ray Bradbury, Soboroff shared (a) photo of his treasured Bradbury typewriter. A 1947 Royal KMM #3756210.” -

When I assembled the ‘Thoughts At Large’ book, a few years ago, it seemed proper to use the old Royal in a cover photo. But my erstwhile wordsmithing appliance was literally under a mountain of old books, magazines, and records, in storage. So I employed a vintage Smith-Corona ‘Super Speed’ device, instead.

The retro vibe worked perfectly.

Meanwhile, my hunt for information continued. I uncovered more about Royal products, and their value to collectors.

“The Royals to look for are the #1, #5, and Standard. These are office machines with an unusual, low profile and a keyboard that looks like it's emerging from a staircase (collectors call these the "flatbed" models). They are worth around $50-$200 depending on condition (usually they are in poor shape). Many older Royal office typewriters are model 10 (usually not marked as such); the earlier ones have glass windows on the sides (pretty although useless). Value depends on condition -- anywhere from zero to $100. Royal portables are fun, but not worth much (about $10-$200 depending on condition and luck, with an average value around $40). The exception is the gold-plated version of the '50s Royal Quiet Deluxe portable, which is worth several hundred dollars. Finally, if your machine says "Royal Grand," you have found a very rare item that's the most valuable model of this make.” -

Even in this era of real-time connectivity, and sophisticated networking, the KMM remains a focal point for my efforts as a creative writer. Not only for its functionality as a wordsmithing tool, but because it was where the journey began.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

“Geauga in Print: Part Eight”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Looking for stories about Geauga County in old newspaper archives available online has become an interesting pursuit. Originally, I reckoned the yield of such literary expeditions would be wordsmithing tidbits that offer insight into the world of yesterday. And indeed, those kinds of articles have been plentiful.

Yet reading these reports also evoked the anachronistic spirit of written language used in this bygone era. The way our forebears translated thoughts into print was often very different from today:

The Champaign Democrat, Nov. 28, 1911

“Columbus, O – Crime statistics gathered by Secretary H. H. Shirer of the state board of charities, and which will be made a part of the board’s annual report, show that Geauga county is more nearly lawabiding than any other county in the state. In one year there were only three persons in the jail. One was a woman. The county is also one of the few which sent no persons to state penal institutions. Others are Fayette, Henry, Holmes, Mercer, Monroe, Morgan, Pike, Preble and Union. Mercer and Henry are the two wet counties (allowing beverage alcohol) in the honor list. Those who had no convicts to send to the penitentiary are Adams, Carroll, Crawford, Highland, Logan, Miami, Putnam, Wayne and Wyandot. Cuyahoga leads all others in number sent to penal institutions.”

Painesville Telegraph, August 27, 1903

“The Geauga Lake Pioneer Association celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, Thursday, with one of the largest picnic reunions ever held by the organization. The reunion was held in the Kent House grove on the banks of Geauga Lake. Hon. Homer N. Kimball, of Madison, was orator of the day and in his speech took up briefly the early settlement of Geauga county by the New England pioneers, noting the advancement made down to the present time. He called the attention of his hearers to the fact that the country population was constantly flocking to the cities, but cities did not become great centers of business through mere chance. The speaker thought all great cities would remain what they are, and increase in size and importance so long as the reasons for their growth exist, and he also declared that he believed someday a greater master of natural law than any yet created would come to the country districts and visit the home of our ancestors, to there plant living flowers, and being inspired by the same causes, invent air engines to take the place of steam and electricity, and in anchoring to these hills establish headquarters of its transportation company, greatly improving the country districts and causing a great change in conditions. He closed by advocating better government, better schools, better roads, better mail facilities, and centralized schools. Mr. Kimball’s address was enthusiastically received.”

Another realization from reading through these yellowed pages has been that quite often, reports from yonder times are very much like the ones filed today:

The Champaign Democrat, October 29, 1903

“Colonel Myron T. Herrick declares that the Democrats are trying to tax the railroads so heavily that they will be obliged to sell out to the state. This is his comment on the effort of the Democrats to get equal taxation and to show the people that it is unfair for the railroads to pay on only 6 percent valuation, while the farmers and small home owners are paying on 60 percent… In his speech at Chardon, Herrick was very particular to insist that single tax is socialism and that socialism will overturn the nation. He presumed upon the ignorance of his hearers. He assumed that none of them knew any more about either single tax or socialism than he does. The assumption may have been correct. The argument of Herrick and (U.S. Senator Mark) Hanna now runs as follows: What about home rule? That is socialism. It is wicked. It will overturn Christianity. What is equal taxation? Socialism, pure and simple. That is what (Cleveland Mayor) Tom Johnson wants. He is trying to have the monopolies pay the same taxes in proportion as you pay on your farms. That would never do. It would be wicked. It would overturn Christianity. God help us escape anything like that. What is two-cent fare? Is there any objection to people in Ohio riding for the same rate per mile as in New York and Michigan? Certainly there is. It is Socialism to ask for it. It is a Johnsonism or a fad. It is wicked… To want two-cent fare on the railroads is a ‘fad.’ To desire to have the public service corporations pay their taxes is an ‘ism.’ God help us to escape all fads and isms. If they are not frowned upon they will overturn Christianity and wound the feelings of Brethren John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. They are ‘business men,’ like Hanna, and do not desire to pay their taxes. If we insist upon ‘fads’ and ‘isms,’ Rockefeller might take away all the oil, Morgan all the hard coal and Hanna has already threatened that he will make half the workingmen walk the streets in idleness… Hanna uses his power as a political boss and United States senator to save his street railroad from paying its share of taxes.”

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Friday, May 04, 2012

“Roundtable: A New Beginning”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a busy morning at the McDonald’s on Water Street, in Chardon.

The Geauga Writers’ Roundtable was about to meet. Chairperson Carrie Hamglaze busied herself with membership documents and recent copies of her ‘Chardon News’ column. Meanwhile, the rest of us buzzed with idle chatter and gossip. Notebooks were piled carelessly with breakfast items, and coffee. I was grateful to enjoy a Sausage McGriddle while jotting down details of an upcoming business venture.

Suddenly, the gathering came to order.

“I would like to open this session of the roundtable!” Carrie shouted over the din.

Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor gestured with her Mocha Latte. “I have missed our meetings. Welcome back!”

“I’ll second that!” agreed Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle.

“Let’s begin with a review of recent stories,” Carrie continued, while sipping Irish tea. “What have you been writing about in your newspapers?”

I cleared my throat. “It seems likely that all of us have addressed the shootings at Chardon High School from our own unique perspectives. Let me say that I have been particularly proud of the coverage in our Geauga County Maple Leaf.”

Carrie nodded with a smile. “Rod is correct. We’ve all written about that tragedy. I am pleased with how we were able to cover such a difficult story with care and attention to detail.”

Mack Prindl of the Parkman Register echoed their sentiments. “It became a national story, almost overnight.”

I put down my coffee. “Or one could even say, an international story. A friend who works as a pharmacist for Giant Eagle said that she saw coverage of the shootings on the BBC from England.”

“I am heartened with how everyone reacted,” Carrie said, exuding authority. “Our students, teachers, parents, safety officers, public officials… our citizens. Everyone came together in a splendid way.”

Martha Ann had tears in her eyes. “Yes they did.”

Carrie gestured with authority. “So, what else did we learn from this, going forward?”

Ezekiel took a deep breath. “I was just worried about my grandkids. They mean more to me than anything.”

Martha Ann bowed her head. “Amen!”

Everyone at the table agreed.

I leaned back in the chair. “Of primary concern was Steven, my nephew who is a student at CHS. Also of interest to me was the real-time data stream as that day unfolded. I’ve read about the phenomenon, but never experienced it, firsthand. Through Twitter and Facebook on my mobile phone, I kept in touch with other journalists who were busy with the story, as it was unfolding.”

Ezekiel shook his head like a bull. “I still don’t use that stuff.”

“Zeke, you need to join the modern world,” Mack laughed out loud.

“Some of the students involved were able to communicate with their parents, as everything was happening,” Martha Ann said. “That lifeline kept us all in touch.”

“That’s right,” I remembered. “One of the parents was on WTAM that morning, with Bill Wills. Before most of us even thew what was happening. She had gotten text messages from her son, who was in the school cafeteria.”

Carrie nodded. “From that day forward, everything was different. We’ve all got to find a way to begin, again…”

Once more, the group joined in agreement.

“Very good, then,” our host said. “So… what else have you been writing about in the past few weeks?”

Martha Ann pointed her finger in the air. “My latest feature is about upcoming spring events in the county. So much to do, and everything is affordable!”

I looked through my notes. “On deck is an article about Jake Kouwe and the Chardon Polka Band. After a bad traffic accident several months ago, he has recovered and is back on stage with his fellow performers.”

Ezekiel sorted through a stack of papers. “I put together a planting guide for those getting ready to enjoy warmer days outside in the garden.”

Mack Prindl huffed to himself. “Well, I wrote a review of the Pittsburgh Steelers draft. Something people really want to read!”

Carrie was visibly flabbergasted.

“You have just ruined the intellectual tone of our discussion,” she complained.

“Come on Pringle,” Martha Ann chirped. “We are supposed to be providing local journalism here. Not cheerleading for an out-of-state pro franchise.”

“That’s P-R-I-N-D-L,” Mack snorted.

Ezekiel pounded the table with his fist. “Can’t you give the Steelers thing a rest? Even for one day?”

“Never!” Mack yelped defiantly. “I know what my readers want!”

“Really?” Martha Ann squawked. “What’s next, a recipe series using Iron City Beer?”

Carrie nearly spilled her Irish tea. “Okay, we need to stay focused here!”

Mack refused to submit. “Six Superbowl rings!”

Ezekiel closed his eyes. “So help me God, I’m gonna slap you out of your chair, Pringle!”

A minor scuffle ensued. Notepads and pens flew around the table.

I tried to steer the conversation back to sanity. “You know, we are lucky to live in a county where people have such a strong identity and sense of purpose. As Chief of Police Tim McKenna said after the events at CHS, ‘Chardon will take care of Chardon.’ That speaks well to the character of people in Geauga.”

The group went silent.

Carrie raised her Irish tea in a salute. “I have to agree.”

Martha Ann concurred. “So true!”

Ezekiel raised his fist, silently.

“One heartbeat!” he shouted.

I lifted my coffee. “Indeed! As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home!’”

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